Saturday, September 19, 2015

Badly Photographed Grad Student Meals I

If you've been following my blog you know that *all* my grad student meals are badly photographed. There's no way I can compete with the established food bloggers, so I decided to capitalize on the kitsch!

Earlier this week I made a super-Americanized form of aloo gobi (potato-cauliflower) with Trader Joe's Masala Simmer Sauce and white beans. Now, I've had some experience using less oil and more stirring to make my potatoes extra-pillowy (I forget which recipe I followed, but it called for just 1 tsp oil; I did it! but I'd use 2 tsp in the future). So, with my potatoes striving to stretch out roots in my pantry, I concocted a potato hash with kidney beans, onions, yellow squash + mushrooms. You can barely taste the veggie mix, but at least I feel healthier ;)

Bíborka's ready to "Prost" with our first bottled Cheerwine!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Grecian-Stripe Knit Blouse

Sewing post!!!

I finished my second knits sewing project! (Actually, before I even arrived in NC.)

This time I also used the Sewaholic Renfrew pattern, but followed it a lot more closely. My mods were: to pinch it in at the sides until it fit perfectly (marked using the new disappearing ink pen); to shorten the sleeves so the cuff falls just above the elbow; a cowl neck and deep back; and slit, re-buttoned "Grecian" sleeves! (Like a chiton! Or, the main reason I wished I were also learning Ancient Greek ... altho' the Roman flame-colored wedding veil rocks, too. I digress...)

hey Sonne!
I drafted the cowl neck myself; the first one was way. too. high. And I even tried to match the stripes on the sides. It's a very delicate material; unfortunately our ultra-heavy-duty, man-eating washing machine tore the hand-crocheted cords that hold the low back on the shoulders right off - creating a tear :( - at least I can go to Jo-Annie's, buy some ribbon, and only hand-wash from now on! I'll try to mend the tear with knit interfacing on the inside, and zigzag stitch (or hand-stitched mending) if necessary.

Hmnh and perhaps I'll come up with an even better method!
And because candy pink is the best thing ever and sewing blogs exist for pictures, here's a last view:

All photo cred goes to Owl! Thanks! :)

I will definitely sew the Renfrew again, I think - I have no definite plans, but it'd be a great modifiable fall/winter pattern. Assuming we get fall/winter down South. Mal schauen!

Spaghegghti and other Stories


It's been survived! Es wurde überlebt. Und erlebt. The first (elongated) week of grad school at both UNC and Duke is accomplished.

So after 4 hours of class I did not want to go shopping really and I knew that at home I had a small plate of leftover spaghetti, onions, and eggs ... I bought a green pepper (and also an entire 12-pack of Cheerwine which I brought home up the hill on my bike) and made SPAGEGGHTI! The unspellable, dubiously pronounceable, mildly edible thing you see below.

a very pun meal

Today was the first day of Kaffeestunde! I made M&M cookies - at the very last minute because I also had to prepare for two presentations. And used soymilk for the VERY FIRST TIME instead of water, which is astonishing really considering it's my most-used cookie recipe, a great base for adding ... chocolate chips, M&M's, dried fruit, etc. Here you go: Happy Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies. Their veganness left some in awe. Toldya it was a superpower! And the three undergrads who came (yayyy! someone came :) ) were ultra-nice; I forgot how much I like Kaffeestunde people. Would also not have survived without my fellow Kaffeestunde organizers, who nabbed the cookies while I ran off to print handouts; cheers!

Speaking of which, Bíborka says drink more Cheerwine:

It's red like blood! :D

In other North Carolina news, me and Owl and the Medievalist and the German Guy went to an ice cream place on Sunday - a fabulous country homemade cheap ice cream place with a million flavors - called Maple View Farms. It's even bikable! 45 minutes on Google Maps. A worthy goal. At any rate, everyone's flavors looked lovely; the honey lavender and pineapple basil (!basil, which I have only ever seen in Vienna!) were delicious, soft and ultra-creamy.

Then the Modisches Mädl had her birthday on Monday/Tuesday (celebrations deserve time, y'all) and taught me that Trader Joe's gives you a birthday wheel-of-fortune spin if you go there on your b-day, and she scored a PB&J chocolate bar, which is SOOO American. I want to try it. But I also devoured her entire dark chocolate and speculoos bar at her party. (Having been given permission!) And it was lovely. I must return the favor at my parties ;)

 Knitting News: First sleeve on first sweater (aka, the Purple Suit of Armor) has been cast on and a good few centimeters knit!

And finally, riding home through the dark forest on the hill, I was stricken (literally) by a bright white bioluminescent insect - not quite a firefly! Could these charming (hopefully) creatures be Phausis reticulata? Who knows? I certainly hope to find out!

Next up is another sewing post; I decided to keep those separate from the everyday.

Und jetzt zum Wochenende!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Cinnamon Raisin Bread (plus, Zucchini Muffins)

Today I taught Golden Lab (my roommate ;) ) how to bake cinnamon-raisin bread! It was the first time I'd done it myself and it came out delicious. This is the recipe we used: Pinch of Yum

It is SUUUUPER sweet. And I think you can get away with *way* less cinnamon in the filling. Certainly a better choice for the grad student budget. Even tho' I might start buying baking stuff in bulk - for real.

Comme c'est beau!*

*How pretty!
 Here are some before-and-after pictures of the baking!

And here's a slice! The bread part is sooooo good. It's very very very sweet. American ;) We used actually about 2 cups whole wheat PASTRY flour, about 1 cup all-purpose flour, then about 1/8 cup wheat gluten and one of the flours (I forget which) to fill in the gap up to 2 1/2 cups. Very scientific.

I think you could reduce the sugar to like 1/3 for the filling but I guess the yeast needs the 2 tbsp at the beginning. And we used demerara sugar, yummm. It's the "natural," less processed version of regular sugar. I like it. Also canola oil, not olive. I'm sure it's good either way!

 But were we done baking? NOOOO. ;) I had to use up the remainder of my mega-zucchini (posing with Janie):

Janie is not impressed

I think I made 5-6 batches of omelets/scrambled eggs using this zucchini, in addition to pasta twice and also another dozen zucchini muffins! It was 99 cents at an Ohio farmers' market. Irresistible zucchini.

I completed the pyramid! YAYYYY (watch out for bowling balls)

So today we made 18 muffins! Using eggs instead of egg replacer (oops - forgot the flax seed in Ohio). From "Joy of Vegan Baking." A fabulous cookbook. (Bakebook?)

Cinnamon-chip variant. Also made raisin and plain.
Just sidenote: because I don't have a grater here, and don't want to buy one (with moving you buy LOTS of stuff anyway), I used my Blendtec to grate the zucchini. So I added about 1/3 cup of soymilk to the blender to get things to go smoothly. Then just continued adding all liquid ingredients. It makes a lovely frothy green "beverage." Please do not mistake for a smoothie ;)

And to finish up this very long baking post, here's my taco dinner! Crookneck squash, onion, red pepper flakes, black pepper, and a short-grain brown rice + refried black bean (ew, but actually good in this recipe) mix ... add greens and put in the gently preheated corn tortillas. ET MANGE! (I added cheese, cheddar cheese. But it's unnecessary. You could add whatever ... but it's délicieux)

Oh and after dinner Penguin taught me how to make my love life into a Korean TV drama. But that's another story.

yummy tacos

Purple Hair!!! (Splat Review)

So I've been dyeing my hair since late January and in earnest (all-over) since early February. Because I needed to bleach my chocolate-brown hair (**don't bleach chocolate**), I bought the cheap Splat kit from CVS that includes both. It's $13. I chose Purple Desire, which interestingly has been subtitled "mauve" on the most recent bottle (recommended book: "Mauve" by Simon Garfield).
Deep purple!

I can't find the Purple Desire yet down South :( but I've only looked one place. Anyway, this is the deep shade of purple that I want: almost blue-y, but definitely deep violet. It fades slowly over time to plum, then paler purple and eventually to pinkey-blonde and then blonde.
I went to the gym between bleaching and dyeing - here I am half-blonde

What I really like is that the overall purple shade, from a distance, very much resembles my natural appearance. It's a different *color*, but a similar darkness.

Maintenance: I just did my first rebleach to touch up the brown roots that have grown in. Usually I just reapply the dye to freshly washed hair every 5-7 weeks. I can go as short as 4 if I really want it to stay dark, as long as 8 if it's doing well and I haven't shampooed much. I don't really shampoo a lot anyway - 3 times a week? With chamomile vegan-friendly shampoo, Nature's Gate I think or a similar brand. A little washes out each time, but nothing crazy.

Staining?: If you keep your hair dry, it doesn't stain (it will stain your towels when you dry your hair - mine are purple ;) ). And I stained a pillowcase when I fell asleep with wet hair ... but for me that's no big deal. Sometimes I even get rained on and nothing comes off.

Verdict: I like it! It's a good idea to get an extra container so you can use just half the bleach solution at once and since I have short hair I never use all the dye at once, so that cuts down on the upkeep cost. There are great instructions in the box (what I used) and online (if you need more tips!).

Wednesday, August 19, 2015


Blendtec loaf. Yayy! 

Let's be Germans and squish words together. Brotbacken - Breadbaking!

Now that I'm ensconced in our new, furnitureless apartment (see above: don't worry: we all have mattresses finally ;) ) I've begun baking for real! And what's a better thing to try along with grad school than bread? Customizable AND cuddlable (well, kneadable)!

I freaked out that my first recipe wasn't going to work because I started with the Blendtec whole-wheat vegan recipe from Snarky Vegan (which I deveganized with honey - well, de-pure-veganized - ask me later, there are LOTS of online discussions about how to be vegan). And then I was chatting with Roommate E., the Owl*, and forgot how much flour I had added. Oops. So I think I over-added. Anyway, the Blendtec did fine kneading, but there were LUMPS. Nooooo. So I kneaded by hand a little bit. Then despaired. Then dumped it into the Blendtec and went gung-ho mixing up MORE dough from recipe no. 2 - the regular whole wheat bread recipe from Joy of Vegan Baking.

Only Snarky Vegan's ingredient list is better. So I used her ingredients and Joy of Vegan Baking's process. It's peculiar - apparently the Blendtec is awesome enough at mixing (heyyy ... what about my armpower) that it only takes half an hour to rise. (!) And, when I dumped the Dough of Despair out of the Blendtec, it WAS ALIVE! Springy! Bouncy! No more lumps. So I baked that up and proceeded to let the traditional dough, recipe no. 2, rise and get punched down for all 3-4 hours of the process.

Verdict? We liked the Blendtec bread better! It was fluffier, and it's possible just fresher - we ate it first ... anyway, this bread is also eminently stealable**, and I think I'm going to start just baking for everybody (at our place, anyway)! (** I'm not mad, just flattered ;) )

Pictures!!! And because the second, traditional loaf got kinda hard sitting around for a few days, I made Cinnamon-Raspberry French Toast (thx Owl for the suggestion!).

*P.S. I think my roommates will be Owl, Penguin, Dog, and then I am Cat ... just fyi. Must check with roommates, but we are basically a happy menagerie ;)

French toast (and heyyy peppermint!)

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Bíborka Fialová: the crocheted vampiress

I just made a crocheted vampiress from the book "Creepy Cute Crochet," by Christen Haden (and published by Quirk Books, who also has a cookbook all about sprinkles ...). I chose the book on a whim at the library, and I'm pretty obsessed ... 

Her name is Bíborka Fialová, which means ... "purple purple" ;) In Hungarian and Slovakian. She's an Eastern European vampire apparently. My FAVORITE part of her are the braids - it was such fun to coif her hair! And her starry eyes, as well as the blood-red brooch of power, are old buttons from my grandma. I love her neat collar and skirt too.

Frequently the pattern didn't make much sense - especially for a newcomer to crochet like me (I've done round coasters, all the basic stitches except half-double, and years ago, granny squares) ... but even online there's very little help. (I didn't check the Ravelry group.) So I just did the collar my way, as well as the hair, and somehow did manage to get the skirt! 

My crochet hook was one size too big, a size F, but I don't have an E ...

Here's Bíborka visiting the seaside and getting to know Miss Bella, our tortoiseshell cat:

Bíborka likes to visit the sea by her castle
Miss Bella getting acquainted with the vampire

Check her out on Ravelry!